God only knows

I may not always love you,

but as long as there are stars above you,

you never need to doubt it,

I’ll make you so sure about it.

[Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, God Only Knows, The Sounds of Summer, 2003]

Downloaded from iTunes, 2010

I bought it for my ipod years ago with the itunes card that it came with. It’s simple in words and music. There isn’t a pretentious note or false word, and the vocals are amazing. It is such an easy song to sing that I sometimes forget how very difficult it is to create this kind of simplicity.

I think the same is true of love. It looks simple on the outside, but it takes a lot of work. Harmony isn’t easy. It takes listening to someone else, accommodating another just as someone does for me. It’s a lot of work and it can get repetitive.

I can sing these words to a few people on this earth and really mean it. There are a few who have made and kept such promises to me. As long as there are stars above you and me, I hope I never take them for granted. If there’s anything like heaven on earth, this is surely a glimpse of it.

Home Made

Just know you’re not alone I’m gonna make this place your home.

[Phillip Phillips, Home, The World from the Side of the Moon]

I live in a town with 20,000 other people, give or take. This time of year, there are a lot more people living here. People of all shapes, shades, and sizes look for hermit crabs on the beach, cast lines into the river, catch a Gatemen game, and sleep under the same starry sky that hangs over my house. Most days, I do my best to make this place I live in and love a good home for my 20,000+ neighbors. I hope they know they aren’t alone. I’m here.

Loneliness is a peculiar kind of spiritual homelessness. It has nothing to do with the place I keep my furniture or the bit of asphalt that my car sits on. It’s more about whether I feel lost in this big world. Am I alone in a vast, dark, empty universe? What if I get lost in the billions of years that have already passed and the billions to come? Is this cosmic neighborhood simply too big to call home?

If I don’t pay attention to the demons who fill me with fear, if I take a deep breath and open my eyes, I can see my town, planet, galaxy, and era for what they are: the place God made my home. The place God made the home of all my neighbors.

The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 

Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

God takes care?

God takes care of old folks and fools.
Public Enemy, He Got Game, Power to the People & the Beats

Does God take care of old folks and fools more than the young and the quick witted? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure God takes care of everyone; I’m also pretty sure that old folks and fools will admit it.

 

Hum along…

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…

I didn’t attach the music to this one. I think you know the tune. Repeat the above once, then again, adding let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. If you are feeling especially brave and silly, hold up your pointer finger like a candle. If you happen to have small children, you’ve got a ready-made chorus.

It’s a favorite song when we are young; it’s embarrassing from our teen years through most of our twenties, thirties, and forties – unless we’re just singing along to encourage little kids. If we are very wise and very lucky, it’s a treasure we reclaim in our later years, along with Jesus Loves Me, This I know.

The light we hold is ours alone, the unique and precious gift we receive from the One who forms us in holiness. It isn’t our talents or marketable skills, our keen intellect or acerbic wit. It is who we are at our very core, and what we are made of: light and warmth. Such a light and heat isn’t made greater by extinguishing the light of another. It’s meant to dispel darkness, call people home, and illuminate this beautiful creation around us. We don’t create our little lights, we let them shine.

When I die, I hope someone sings this song. I hope I’ve done my best to let my little light shine. I hope.

Thin line

Religion, religion…oh, there’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning...

[Jimmy Buffett, Fruitcakes, Fruitcakes, MCA records, 1994]

Jimmy Buffett is one of my favorite summer musicians. His tunes go well with sand, sun, high temps, and tasty beverages. But he sneaks some pretty good theology and a bit of church Latin in with the steel drums.

I love this line. I didn’t use these exact words, but the sentiment was one that crossed my mind almost every Saturday night when I was a bartender. Not for the reason some would think: last call bad behavior followed by self-righteous piety in the pew a few hours later. I’m sure there was some of that, but it didn’t really interest me. What did: people came to the bar for the same reason they showed up at church – seeking kindness and connection, something deeper than the usual pleasantries. On Saturday night, it was a couple of martinis that offered honesty and self-revelation. On Sunday morning, it was confession and a cup of truly awful coffee after the service.

I don’t tend bar anymore. My work is on the Sunday side of the thin line. But I am so glad I spent a few years on the Saturday side. I suspect I was just as faithful to God on the one side of the line as on the other…

 

 

 

Reading It Right

I read the Bible often

I try to read it right

As far as I can understand

It’s nothing but a burning light

[Blind Willie Johnson, Soul of a Man from Bruce Cockburn’s Nothing But A Burning Light, Golden Mountain Music Corp., Sony Music, Inc/Columbia Records, 1991]

A lot of time and effort is spent by seminary professors trying to teach their students how to read the Bible right. Historical/Critical, Literary, and Socio-Political are just a few ways to interpret scripture. Generations of students compare different versions, studying texts in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. But how do they read it right?

I’ve heard excellent, intriguing lectures that explain many things about complex texts. I’ve listened to blatantly biased interpretations used to justify opinions and situations that the Biblical writers never encountered, much less wrote about. I’ve heard Sunday sermons do the same.

Just like the lyrics say, I read the Bible and do my best to read it right. If I’m reading chapter and verse to justify myself or judge another, I’m treating sacred words like the family silver service – sorting it, shining it, and stuffing it in a drawer to be used at my convenience and need. I don’t think it was ever meant to be read likethat.

Blind Willie had it right: if I’m reading it right, it’s nothing but the burning light that reveals me, angels and neighbors, and the sacred path we walk together upon God’s green earth.

Available on iTunes.